Kilkenny’s champion of the ring has made history in Europe, and she is determined to scale even greater heights.
Callan boxing club member, Clare Grace, became only the second Irish woman ever to win a medal at the European Elite boxing championships when she snatched bronze on Monday.
And now on Friday she will be gunning for silver in the semi-finals.
“Winning was an amazing feeling,” Grace told the ’People after comprehensively out-gunning a Turkish fighter who had beaten her at under-age level in the past.
“I want to remain focussed now and not get distracted before Friday. What happened on Monday is over. The next fight is what matters. It would be great to score another win.”
The 20-year-old will face highly rated English champion, Stacey Copeland in the 69kgs division in the gigantic Polyvalent Hall. Copeland beat a crack Russian, Irina Poteyeva to book her place in the last four.
“It was a brilliant feeling when the result was announced,” Clare said after getting the nod from all three judges against Turkey’s Kara Guluzar. “I boxed her before and she beat me. I was happy to reverse that result.”
Clare explained that she was nervous entering the ring, and was slow into her stride. The judges could have given that round either way, her handlers told how. However, she upped her punch count and dominated the following three rounds to win handsomely.
Clare said she felt good after the fight, and didn’t take much punishment.
“I felt comfortable when I got into the rhythm of things,” she continued. “The more you fight at international level, the more confident you get. Winning was an amazing feeling.”
The next few days will be all about keeping herself busy and sharp. She will train every day, but only to keep things ticking over.
The championships are being stages in a huge arena, which Clare said could be intimidating.
“Coming out of it a winner I felt really good,” she admitted. “I could have jumped over the ropes. That was a good moment in my life.”
One of the first people she spoke to after the win was her 81-year-old coach from Callan, Jimmy Walsh.
“I didn’t sleep on Sunday night thinking about the fight,” Jimmy said from his home in Callan. “What that girl went through with the pressure of exams and so on before flying to Hungary no one knows. She is a wonderful athlete.”
The Turk had beaten the Irish champion 5-3 under the old computer scoring system in the semi-finals of the European Youth Championships in France in 2010.
“Clare was outstanding. She was on top of her game and breezed through the rounds,” said Irish team manager Fiona Hennigan.
Grace will pick up at least 450 AIBA rankings points by virtue of reaching the semi-finals. She will make her first appearance in the AIBA World rankings when they are updated to reflect performances in Bucharest.
She also joins the ‘Irish European Championships Medal Winning Club’. Some of the more recent European medal winners include Andy Lee, Ken Egan, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Joe Ward, John Joe Nevin, Jason Quigley and five-time European champion, Katie Taylor.